CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Ebonie Leonard loves college. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill senior now hopes to help other young people enjoy the experience.
"It's just been so diverse being here at Carolina, learning so many things," she said.
Leonard is one of nearly 40 UNC-Chapel Hill students who has applied to be college advisers in the university's Carolina College Advising Corps, a program funded by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation that aims to help increase the number of low-income students enrolling in college.
"It's not right that some kids get to college and some don't," said UNC-Chapel Hill Assistant Provost Steve Farmer. "We can't fix everything. We're not going into these schools on a white horse pretending that we know everything. We're just going to serve."
The college advisers will help high school students fill out applications, apply for financial aid and more. Administrators believe they will provide the extra push some students need.
"The guidance counselors in North Carolina are incredibly dedicated to their kids," Farmer said. "And, I believe, they're also overwhelmed."
At Durham's Hillside High School, for example, there are five guidance counselors for more than 1,400 students.
Principal Earl Pappy believes the new program is just what his school needs.
"Whether its writing essays, how to research scholarships—there's various things that some parents aren't knowledgeable about so that we can make sure our students are tuned in to what they need to be doing," Pappy said.
The program starts this fall with eight high schools, including two in Durham and Chatham counties. UNC-Chapel Hill plans to expand the program to 10 more schools the following year.
Leonard will get her college degree this spring. Then, she hopes to help someone else do the same.
"People shouldn't let students settle anymore," she said. "They should challenge them, make them take the harder classes and go on and get a four-year degree."